The year's most popular patents, as determined by the numbers of clicks from readers, and in reverse order, are:
10. Skateboard meets Segway
Sony unveils plans for a motor-powered skateboard the rider controls using his or her balance, like a Segway. New Scientist readers were distinctly unimpressed. "Just when you think the human race couldn't get any more lazy," wrote one reader. Another reader had other ideas: "Are they flammable? If not they should be. I'd love to watch one burn."
9. Digit-saving biometrics
Unscrupulous thieves armed with a sharp knife need only steal your hand to beat fingerprint recognition systems but Sony – again – has an idea. They would instead photograph the patterns of blood capillaries just under the skin using an infrared camera. If the finger is cut off, the cold capillaries are no longer visible. Readers pointed out that thieves don't need to steal your finger anyway; they can get your co-operation by beating you to within an inch of your life instead.
8. Fabric displays
Philips plans to make wearable displays by imprinting a cell-like structure onto an ordinary fabric using a stretchy elastomeric material. That should produce a display with the same material properties as the fabric onto which it is attached. Many readers commented that this technology would have important military applications because it could be used as switchable chameleon-like camouflage.
7. Wheels with wings
Aircraft tyres could one day be fitted with built-in aerofoils that exploit the surrounding airflow to make them rotate before a landing, thus saving tyres excessive wear and tear. A number of readers believe that this idea is not patentable because NASA developed a similar thing in the 1970s; one person remembered seeing it in a WW2-era copy of Popular Mechanics. We'll have to wait and see whether the patent office agrees.
6. Blood staunching bandages
Bandages made from about 65% glass fibre and 35% bamboo fibre not only absorb blood, but also stimulate the body's ability to staunch the flow. A popular idea based on clicks alone, but in the comments New Scientist readers merely punned in response. One wrote: "I think dages should be banned. Definitely. Bandages!", while another replied: "Some time ago, I myself made a comment like that on a stricter board than this. I've been banned ages."
5. The hibernation diet
Could changing our metabolism from glucose-burning to fat-burning help tackle obesity? The idea was triggered by a researcher's discovery that he could trigger a state of fat-burning hibernation in mice, which don't usually hibernate. Readers took a sanguine view: "One can readily imagine the late-night TV ads for: 'The Super Duper Torpor Diet! Burn fat while you sleep.'"
4. Vibrating Razor 2.0
Vibrating razors could cause less skin irritation if the vibrations move the razor head move back and forth over the skin rather than up and down, says electronics giant Philips. But one reader pointed out that laser removal could be better than millions of ultimately disposable razors: "Laser hair removal reduces landfill waste and our carbon footprint. As Mae West once said, the only place hair belongs on a woman is on her head."
3. Brain radiator
A thermal pipe implanted into the brain to carry heat away could reduce the chances of severe epileptic fits. This invention was designed for the small number of people who suffer very severe fits. Much of the discussion on our website was focused on how such a device might actually transfer heat but one reader worried that a radiator would have its own problems: "Wouldn't the benefits be mitigated by the increased threat of being hit by lightning?"
2. Wide-angled gigapixel satellite surveillance
A wide-angle camera that can photograph a 10-kilometre-square area from an altitude of 7.5 kilometres with a resolution better than 50 centimetres per pixel. Such a camera would be able to survey an entire city in one sweep. Perhaps predictably, the discussion focused on whether such a device would be able to see female sunbathers. "I'll bet the NSA has the best collection of unauthorized pinups in the world," mused one reader.
1. Microsoft mind reader
Microsoft's cunning plan to read data straight from people's brains... The patent application refers to a way of using EEG to monitor people's responses to new user interfaces. The problem, says Microsoft, is that asking them what they think of it interrupts the experience and waiting till later allows them to forget. One reader felt that the patent is an over-engineered solution: "Kinda reminds me of the space pen thing. The US developed the space pen, while the Russians just used a pencil in space."
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